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In the 1930s, musician and inventor Paul Tutmarc from Seattle, Washington, who was manufacturing lap steel guitars, developed the first electric string bass in its modern form, a fretted instrument designed to be played horizontally.

The 1935 sales catalog for Tutmarc's electronic musical instrument company, Audiovox, featured his "Model 736 Bass Fiddle", a four-stringed, solid-bodied, fretted electric bass instrument with a The adoption of a guitar's body shape made the instrument easier to hold and transport than any of the existing stringed bass instruments.

The addition of frets enabled bassists to play in tune more easily than on fretless acoustic or electric upright basses.

The Jazz Bass (often referred to as a "J-bass") featured two single-coil pickups, one close to the bridge and one in the Precision bass' split coil pickup position.

The earliest production basses had a 'stacked' volume and tone control for each pickup.

Following Fender's lead, in 1953, Gibson released the first short scale violin-shaped electric bass with extendable end pin, allowing it to be played upright or horizontally.

Gibson renamed the Electric Bass in 1958 to the EB-1.

This was soon changed to the familiar configuration of a volume control for each pickup, and a single, passive tone control.

The Jazz Bass' neck was narrower at the nut than the Precision bass — inches (44 mm) — allowing for easier access to the lower strings and an overall spacing and feel closer to that of an electric guitar, allowing trained guitarists to transition to the bass guitar more easily.The Precision Bass (or "P-bass") evolved from a simple, un-contoured "slab" body design and a single coil pickup similar to that of a Telecaster, to a contoured body design with beveled edges for comfort and a split single coil pickup.The "Fender Bass" was a revolutionary new instrument for gigging musicians.Since the 1960s, the bass guitar has largely replaced the double bass in popular music as the bass instrument in the rhythm section.While types of basslines vary widely from one style of music to another, the bassist usually plays a similar role: anchoring the harmonic framework and establishing the beat.Around 1947, Tutmarc's son, Bud, began marketing a similar bass under the Serenader brand name, prominently advertised in the nationally distributed L. Heater Music Company wholesale jobber catalogue of 1948.